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Human Givens or Human givens psychotherapy is a school of psychology that, since its foundation in the mid 1990s, has been influencing psychotherapy and education. It asserts that psychological understanding is best advanced by acknowledging that we have innate physical and emotional needs and that nature has given us resources to help us fulfil them. These needs have evolved over millions of years and are our common biological inheritance, whatever our cultural background. It is because these needs and resources are incorporated into our biology that they are called 'givens'. This organising idea has produced improved ways of treating depression, anxiety disorders, psychosis and addiction.

Theoretical basis[edit | edit source]

Innate needs[edit | edit source]

It theorises that our innate needs seek their fulfillment through the way we interact with the environment using the resources nature 'gave' us. When our emotional needs are not being met, or when our resources are being used incorrectly, however we suffer considerable distress, and so do those around us.

Human Givens says that in everyday terms, it is by meeting our physical and emotional needs that we survive and develop as individuals and a species. As animals we are born into a material world where we need air to breathe, water, nutritious food and sleep. These are the paramount physical needs. Without them, we quickly die.

It says we also need the freedom to stimulate our senses and exercise our muscles. In addition, we instinctively seek sufficient and secure shelter where we can grow and reproduce ourselves and bring up our young. These physical needs are intimately bound up with our emotional needs which are the main focus of human givens psychology.

There is widespread agreement among psychologists as to the nature of our emotional needs. The main ones are listed below.

Emotional needs[edit | edit source]

Human givens believes emotional needs include:

  • Security — safe territory and an environment which allows us to develop fully
  • Attention (to give and receive it) — a form of nutrition
  • Sense of autonomy and control — having volition to make responsible choices
  • Being emotionally connected to others
  • Feeling part of a wider community
  • Friendship, intimacy — to know that at least one other person accepts us totally for who we are, “warts 'n' all”
  • Privacy — opportunity to reflect and consolidate experience
  • Sense of status within social groupings
  • Sense of competence and achievement
  • Meaning and purpose — which come from being stretched in what we do and think.

Human givens says that along with physical and emotional needs nature gave us guidance systems to help us meet them. We call these 'resources'. The resources nature gave us to help us meet our needs include:

Human resources[edit | edit source]

  • The ability to develop complex long term memory, which enables us to add to our innate knowledge and learn
  • The ability to build rapport, empathise and connect with others
  • Imagination, which enables us to focus our attention away from our emotions, use language and problem solve more creatively and objectively
  • A conscious, rational mind that can check out emotions, question, analyse and plan
  • The ability to 'know' — that is, understand the world unconsciously through metaphorical pattern matching
  • An observing self — that part of us that can step back, be more objective and be aware of itself as a unique centre of awareness, apart from intellect, emotion and conditioning
  • A dreaming brain that preserves the integrity of our genetic inheritance every night by metaphorically defusing expectations held in the autonomic arousal system because they were not acted out the previous day.

Human givens believes such needs and tools together make up the human givens, nature's genetic endowment to humanity. Over enormous stretches of time, they underwent continuous refinement as they drove our evolution on. They are best thought of as inbuilt patterns — biological templates — that continually interact with one another and (in undamaged people) seek their natural fulfilment in the world in ways that allow us to survive, live together as many-faceted individuals in a great variety of different social groupings, and flourish.

It is the way those needs are met, and the way we use the resources that nature has given us, that determine the physical, mental and moral health of an individual.

As such, it says the human givens are the benchmark position to which we must all refer — in education, mental and physical health and the way we organise and run our lives. When we feel emotionally fulfilled and are operating effectively within society, we are more likely to be mentally healthy and stable. But when too many innate physical and emotional needs are not being met in the environment, or when our resources are used incorrectly, unwittingly or otherwise, we suffer considerable distress. And so do those around us.

Practise[edit | edit source]

The Human Givens psychotherapy approach to treating depression emerged from research into sleep and especially the brain state indicated by the rapid eye movements seen during dream sleep. It theorises that excessive worrying while awake arouses the autonomic nervous system which then increases the need to dream in REM sleep which deprives the individual of the refreshment of the mind brought about by regenerative slow-wave sleep. It sees worry as a misuse of the imagination. A worry is a form of expectation and expectations arouse the autonomic nervous system. Any expectation that is not acted out during the day time is acted out metaphorically in dreams. Expectation fulfillment theory of dreams This, human givens psychologists say, is why depressed people dream more intensely than non-depressed people and why all depressed people wake up tired and find it difficult to motivate themselves. The balance of their sleep is upset. It uses a number of techniques to get the subject to use their imagination in a healthier way which then restores a healthier sleep pattern and lifts the depression. The technique was developed by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell in the mid 1990s from observations in sleep research and efficacy studies of different psychotherapy schools.

The theory has been further extended to give a plausible possible cause of schizophrenia. It has also been extended to the area of PTSD.

Human givens has been described as the missing heart of the positive psychology movement.

Criticisms[edit | edit source]

Because it is a new therapy it is important that it is approached with caution, as most evidence is published through the European Therapy Studies Institute. It is important to bear in mind the psychological and social forces that are at work that can lead to psychotherapies becoming cultlike The following questions should be considered:

  • Has at least one randomized clinical trial shown this practice to be effective?

No, there have been no randomized clinical trials on the “Rewind Technique” or the Human Givens approach, subsequently there are no references to Human Givens in NICE, or in the broader evaluative literature (eg What works for Whom by Fonagy).

  • Has the practice demonstrated effectiveness in several replicated studies using different samples, at least one of which is comparable to the treatment population of Adult Mental Health Services?

No, there are no replicated studies demonstrating effectiveness using different samples. Any ‘research’ which have been done are non-independent and non-peer reviewed and are not published in any respected scientific journal outside of the Human Givens(HG)Institute.

  • Does the practice demonstrate positive, significant effects on intended outcomes?

No, see 1) and 2) above, however there are numerous ‘Testimonials’ (Happy Customers) and anecdotal case studies, and methodologically flawed studies which the Institute puts forward as arguments that there approach works, (studies which do not appear to have been referenced or cited by independent scientists)

  • Is the practice feasible: can it be used in different formats, is it attractive, is it cost effective, and is training available?

Training is available but it is costly. The HG Diploma consists of three parts. First the student must attend 8 seminars and another 8 workshops and then a 10 day intensive course and finally an assessment, i.e. 26 days plus an exam for £5492.81pp. The diploma is only recognized by the European Therapy Studies Institute (which was also founded by the Human Givens founders) and is not recognized by any psychology or psychotherapy institute

  • Is there sufficient information, including details and a manual for the practice? Are the key components clearly laid out?

There is insufficient information regarding contra-indications and cautions of use of HG approaches, and what to do if things go wrong, e.g. grounding and stabilization techniques. Exposure based treatment particularly imaginal exposure techniques can be very powerful and should only be used with caution by suitably qualified therapists. A one day workshop on the “Rewind Technique” is insufficient to address these deficits in training

Is the practice well accepted by providers and clients? There is insufficient independent information to answer this question at this time

  • Is the practice based on clear and well articulated theory?

Yes and No. The HG approach has been developed by plucking the best of various proven psychological interventions such as CBT, Humanistic Therapy, Solution Focussed Therapy etc. However the HG approach also plucks from non-proven interventions and theories such as Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Joe Griffins (co-founder) “Dream Theory” (at best a non validated hypothesis)

  • Does the practice have associated methods of ensuring fidelity (consistency of delivery of treatment/intervention over time)?

No, there is no independent, peer reviewed research to answer this question

  • Can the practice be evaluated?

Yes, there are numerous ways that this practice can be evaluated including Randomized Control Trials (RCT’s) and or several replicated studies using different samples, however this should be done only a pilot basis initially due to the above concerns.

  • Does the practice show good retention rates?

There is no independent, peer reviewed research to answer this question

  • Does the practice address cultural diversity and different populations?

There is no independent, peer reviewed research to answer this question

  • Can the practice be used by staff with a wide diversity of backgrounds and training?

No, Exposure based treatment particularly imaginal exposure techniques can be very powerful and should only be used with caution by suitably qualified therapists. A one day workshop on the “Rewind Technique” is insufficient particularly when contra-indications, and caution in its use are not systematically taught or indeed how to stabilize the patient if and when things may go wrong.

See also[edit | edit source]

Psychotherapeutic approaches

References & Bibliography[edit | edit source]

Key texts[edit | edit source]

Books[edit | edit source]

Papers[edit | edit source]

Additional material[edit | edit source]

Books[edit | edit source]

Papers[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

Griffin, J, & Tyrrell, I. (1997) Psychotherapy, Counselling and the Human Givens. ETSI Griffin, J, & Tyrrell, I. (2003) Human Givens: A new approach to emotional health and clear thinking. HG Publishing.

External links[edit | edit source]

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